Sepik MPs back Frieda Mine development

Three Sepik Members of Parliament are standing behind the development of Frieda Mine in the Telefomin district.

A press conference was hosted today by the Minister for National Planning and Yangoru-Saussia MP, Richard Maru, Defence Minister and Telefomin MP, Solan Mirisim, and the Vice-Minister for Finance and Rural Development and Ambunti-Dreikikir MP, Johnson Wapunai.

Maru believes the project can unlock the vast economic potential of some of the most remote communities in Telefomin and Ambunti-Dreikikir districts.

“Initially I did not support the project because the proposal was for the copper slurry to come down the Sepik River by barge, and then on to the sea where the barge will move the slurry out of there,” stated Maru.

“I did not support that because I did not want to compromise the Sepik River in any way, shape or form because of the experience we’ve learnt from the Ok Tedi Mine.

“I am extremely happy that the new developer has changed the development plan for the Frieda Mine. They will now build a 320 kilometre pipeline to take the slurry from Frieda all the way to Vanimo.

“In line with that development plan, our government has now funded a feasibility study and design of the new Vanimo wharf at a cost of over K10 million.

“The work is going on now and we expect that the feasibility study, and the design, will be completed by around March, latest April.”

Meantime, Ambunti-Dreikikir MP, Wapunai, says his people need change, further appealing to critics to share and discuss ideas with them to help develop the project.

“This is what we’ve been longing for,” said Wapunai.

“In terms of agriculture in my district, about 75 percent of the land is occupied by swamp; we’re living on fish and crocodile. And if this mine does come off, the way it is now, I believe it will sustain our life and our future. And we can meet the standards of other districts in Papua New Guinea.”

According to Maru, the mine will be situated on the border of East and West Sepik, directly impacting the districts of Ambunti-Dreikikir and Telefomin.

In spite of these Ministers’ confidence, UPNG Avisat Students Association have reportedly gathered over 6,000 signatures from villagers “from 16 years and above” who have consented to be part of the campaign against the Frieda Mine.

(From left: Telefomin MP Solan Mirisim, Yangoru-Saussia MP Richard Maru and Ambunti-Dreikikir MP Johnson Wapunai)

Carmella Gware